Report on Monitoring Registration of Candidates to the Chamber of Representatives

2012 2012-08-27T11:01:24+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en http://spring96.org/files/images/sources/zasvabodnyjavybarylogo-en.png The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections

Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections

Registration of candidates for the parliament is the important stage of the election campaign, as it results in the list of the persons who will take part in the election. The essential task of the observers at this stage is to assess the conditions in which candidates’ registration was held, and to determine if the registration process was transparent and in compliance with the principles of free and democratic elections.

 

І. Conclusions

The Election Code changes made ​​in 2010 simplified the procedure of candidate registration. CEC Ruling # 35 of July 5, 2012 was also meant to simplify the registration procedures, saying that false information about candidate’s income and property is “essential" if the declared annual income is less than the real one, and the discrepancy is more than 20% of the total income.

Procedures of verification of voters’ signatures were held in a non-public manner and were closed for observers. The district election commissions generally announced only the results of signature verification procedures at their meetings. This does not allow us to assess to what extent the procedures of signature verification complied with the requirements of the election legislation, whether they were impartial and free from the politically-motivated approach of the district election commissions.

122 persons were denied registration (24.6% of all nominated contenders). During the parliamentary election in 2008 the number of registration denials was quite similar   -- 24%.

19.5% of the nominees by the political parties in opposition (BPF, UCP, BSDP (H), and Fair World) were denied registration.

Those nominated by two entities simultaneously (by voters through signature collection and by labor collectives) turned out to be absolutely “passing” candidates – 100% of them were registered. As a rule, this is the way chosen by the candidates who enjoy the support of the authorities. Nominees by labor collectives have insignificant percentage of denials – 85% of those nominated by labor collectives were registered.

The contenders nominated by signature collection received the most registration denials – 56%. The main reasons, as indicated by district election commissions, were inaccuracies in voters’ signatures in signature sheets which made up more than 15% of the examined signatures and mistakes in candidates’ income declarations.

 

ІІ. Legal Framework

According to the Calendar Plan, district election commissions are to register candidates no earlier than 40 days and no later than 30 days before the beginning of the election – from August 14th to August 23rd, 2012, respectively.

The list of documents established by Article 66 of the Election Code required for candidate registration includes a declaration about income and property of a person nominated as a candidate. If the discrepancy of the information provided in the declaration about income and property is essential, a district election commission might refuse to register a candidate.

According to clause 8.1 of the CEC Ruling #35 of July 5th, 2012, the discrepancy of information is essential if lesser amount of the total yearly income has been declared, if the discrepancy is more than 20% of the total amount of the yearly income. Also, absence of information about realty, personal motor transport, securities (shares), etc. in declaration papers is an “essential discrepancy” too. Absence of information about income received as travel vouchers subsidized by trade unions, welfare assistance, compensations, etc. is to be considered “non-essential”.

During the presidential election in 2010, according to the relevant CEC explanation, the “essential discrepancy” meant declaring the amount of yearly income which was more than 10% less than the real yearly income.

According to Article 68 of the Election Code, district election commission checks candidate’s compliance with the nomination procedures and decides whether to grant or deny registration to a candidate. The commission’s decision might be appealed by a person nominated as a candidate, to the Central Election Commission and the Supreme Court.

 

ІІІ. Observation of the Signature Verification Procedure by District Election Commissions

Discrepancies in voters’ signatures in signature sheets (more than 15% of the total amount of the examined signatures) are one of the grounds to deny registration to a candidate. This is why observation of the signature verification procedure and its compliance to the requirements of the Election Code is an important and essential part of the civic control over the election process.

The procedure of signature verification by district election commissions is described in Article 67 of the Election Code. The main thing, no less than 20% of signatures in the signature sheets, of the amount required for candidate’s registration are to be examined and verified. This way, no less than 200 signatures are to be examined. If there are more than 15% of unconfirmed signatures among the examined ones, then the commission is to examine additional 15% of the signatures required for registration (150 signatures).

If the total amount of unconfirmed signatures makes up more than 15% of the total amount of signatures, examination is discontinued. Voters’ signatures in signature sheets are verified under the procedure described in parts 14, 16 and 17 of Article 61 of the Election Code[1].

CEC Ruling # 23 of June 19th, 2012 allows persons other than a voter or a member of an initiative group to enter data about a voter in a signature sheet. In fact, this legitimizes the administrative resource that might be used by the authorities. It’s important to point out that this Ruling does not comply with part 16 of Article 61 of the Election Code which states that all signatures in a signature sheet are invalid if they are collected by a person who is not a member by an initiative group.

The majority of observers of the Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections campaign, registered at district election commissions, were not let be present and observe the procedure of signature verification. The commissions motivated their decision by the fact that Article 13 of the Election Code listing observers’ rights does not directly mention the right to observe the signature verification procedure. The district election commissions examined the signatures outside their meetings, using the meetings only for announcing the examination results.

For instance, observers Raman Jurhel and Sviatlana Rudkouskaya (Hrodna), Vasil Lipski (Mahiliou), Leanid Markhotka (Salihorsk) made written requests asking to be present during the procedure of signature verification. The district commissions responded that observers do not have such a right under the law. Head of Hrushauskaya district commission of Minsk (# 98) claimed the law prohibited observers to be present during signature verification procedures, as it would be interference into activities of an election commission.  

At the same time, some district election commissions did create the necessary conditions for observation at the stage of candidates’ registration. For instance, an observer at Dnepr-Buh election district #10 had access to all protocols and signature sheets. Observer at Vileika district #74 also had an opportunity to be present during signature verification procedures.

 Non-transparency of the procedures of checking the documents submitted in support of candidates’ nomination makes it impossible to assess the compliance of the procedures with the Election Code, whether they were impartial and free from politically-motivated approach by district election commissions.

ІV. Results of Candidate Registration

According to the Central Election Commission, altogether 494 persons were nominated all over the country. 122 of them or 24.6% were denied registration as candidates for the parliament. Another 9 candidates registered by district election commissions refused to further participate in the election. In 4 districts the elections will be non-competitive (two districts in Minsk region, one – in Hrodna region, and one – in Brest region).

Representatives of political parties nominated 204 candidates, which is 41% of all nominated candidates. The results of registration of party candidates are the following:

Political Party

 

Nominated

Registered

Denied registration (%)

 

BPF Party

33

30

3 (9%)

 

United Civil Party

48

35

13 (27%)

 

Belarusian Left Party “Fair World”

32

26

5 (15%)

Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada)

15

11

4 (26%)

Communist Party of Belarus

23

21

2 (8,6%)

Belarusian Social and Sports Party

1

1

 

Liberal democratic Party

93

70

23 (24%)

Republican Party of Labor and Justice

19

9

10 (52,6%)

 

Most persons who have been denied registration were nominated by signature collection (56%). The district election commissions claimed, the main reason was invalid signatures (more than 15% of the examined ones) and mistakes in income declarations. The "Tell the Truth" campaign nominated 25 of its activists by signature collection, and only 13 (48% of the nominated) were registered. In Minsk, Tell the Truth will be represented by only one candidate. Other prominent politicians, such as the leader of the "Movement for Freedom" Alexander Milinkevich, youth activist Artur Finkevich, member of the United Civil Party, former Minister of Defence, General Pavel Kazlouski, etc.

23% of nominees by political parties were denied registration. Among them, 19.5% were nominated by the parties in opposition. The smallest number of denials traditionally belongs to those who nominated by labor collectives: out of 19 persons who used it as the only way to be nominated, only 3 people (15%) will not continue running for mandate. Those nominated by two entities at the same time (by voters through signature collection and by labor collectives) succeeded 100% (89 registered of 89 nominated). We should point out this is usually the way used by the candidates who enjoy the support of the government.

21 incumbent MPs were registered as candidates for the parliament. This time 60 persons who were parliament members at different periods have been nominated as candidates. All 60 of them were registered.

Observers report about cases of pressure and intimidation of election participants by the KGB. In Rahachou, Dzianis Dashkevich and his wife were summoned to the local KGB office on August 23rd, after his failure to get registered as a candidate. Some members of Dashkevich’s initiative group also received invitations for a conversation with local KGB officers. Iosif Matseyun, candidate of the Belarusian Left Party “Fair World”, dropped out of the race immediately after his registration at Vileika election district # 74. He said he withdrew his candidacy because of the KGB pressure. This district has become one of the four non-competitive districts. The only candidate at this district now is Viktar Rusak, head of the KGB’s Main Department for Economic Security.

V. Appeals

District election commission’s decision to deny registration to a candidate may be appealed by a nominated person to the Central Election Commission during three days from the day the decision was made. The decision of the Central Election Commission may be appealed by the nominated person to the Supreme Court, during three days from the day the decision was made. The Supreme Court has three days to consider the complaint and make the final decision. 

The Code of Civil Procedures describes the peculiarities of hearing the appeals against the actions of the Central Election Commission or a district commission. According to Article 150 of the Code of Civil Procedure, the procedural period begins the next day after the calendar date or the day of an event appealed. However, on practice the Central Election Commission determines the beginning of the procedural term for appealing decisions from the day the decision was made. That leads to situations when participants of the election process miss the term for appealing.

As a rule, commissions ground their decisions to deny registration on either incompliance of voters’ signatures with the requirements of Article 61 of the Election Code, or inaccuracies in income declarations (Article 68 of the Election Code). As of August 24th, 4 members of the Belarusian Left Party “Fair World”, 2members of BPF Party, 4 members of BSDP (H), and 6 members of UCP said they would appeal against their non-registration. Activists of non-governmental organizations and civic campaigns who had been nominated by signature collection filed appeals too. According to CEC chairperson, the Central Election Commission received more than appeals against non-registration of candidates for the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Fifth Convocation.



[1] Invalid signatures are the following ones: fictitious signatures (made on behalf of non-existent persons and presented as valid); signatures made by one person on behalf of different persons, or on behalf of a person by another person; signatures of persons not eligible to vote; signatures of voters who provided false information about themselves in signature sheets; voters’ signatures collected before the established period of candidates’ nomination; voters’ signatures if information about them lacks some of the data required by the Code; voters’ signatures, if information about them is entered into the signature sheet not in handwriting, or by a pencil, as well as signatures, where the date when the signature was put was not entered by a voter him or herself.  Besides that, all signatures in a signature sheet are considered invalid, if the signatures are collected by a person who is not a member of an initiative group or if they are certified by another member of initiative group who did not collect them. Voters’ signatures collected with violation of requirements of part 8 of Article 61 of the Election Code are also considered invalid.

 

 

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